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Association between remnant lipoprotein cholesterol levels and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in adolescents

Chin, J., Mori, T.A., Adams, L.A., Beilin, L.J., Huang, R-C, Olynyk, J.K. and Ayonrinde, O.T. (2020) Association between remnant lipoprotein cholesterol levels and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in adolescents. JHEP Reports, 2 (6). Art. 100150.

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Background & Aims

Remnant lipoprotein cholesterol (RLP-C) is an atherogenic lipid profile associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). With increased rates of CVD seen in adults with NAFLD, RLP-C has the potential to identify individuals with NAFLD who are at increased risk of CVD. This study examined in adolescents sex-different associations among RLP-C, NAFLD, and cardiometabolic risk factors, and whether RLP-C is associated with NAFLD beyond traditional cardiometabolic risk factors.


Adolescents in the Raine Study had anthropometry, clinical, biochemistry and arterial stiffness measurements recorded at 17 years of age. Fatty liver, subcutaneous and visceral adipose thickness were assessed using abdominal ultrasound. Relationships among RLP-C, NAFLD, liver biochemistry, insulin resistance, adipokines, adiposity and arterial stiffness were assessed.


NAFLD was diagnosed in 15.1% (19.6% females and 10.7% males) of adolescents. Increasing RLP-C levels were associated with increasing severity of hepatic steatosis and metabolic syndrome. Adolescents with NAFLD and serum RLP-C levels in the highest quartile compared with the lowest quartile, had higher serum leptin, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, BMI, subcutaneous and visceral adipose thickness, systolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness, but lower adiponectin and high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol. Using multivariable logistic regression, RLP-C in the lowest quartile compared with the highest quartile was associated with 85% lower odds of NAFLD in males and 55% in females, after adjusting for waist circumference, leptin, ALT, adiponectin and HOMA-IR.


There is an association between RLP-C and NAFLD beyond traditional risk factors of adiposity and insulin resistance in adolescents. Although raised serum RLP-C levels were associated with the severity of hepatic steatosis and markers of cardiometabolic risk, lower serum RLP-C might reflect reduced cardiovascular risk.

Lay summary

Remnant lipoprotein cholesterol (RLP-C) is a part of the blood cholesterol that is linked with heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in adults. In the Raine Study, teenagers with high RLP-C levels had more severe fat accumulation in their liver. Thus, RLP-C might be the hidden link between NAFLD and future risk of heart disease.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier B.V. on behalf of European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL).
Copyright: © 2020 The Author(s).
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
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